Treger Strasberg, co-founder CEO of Pontiac-based Humble Design, a nonprofit that furnishes homes for families leaving shelters across metro Detroit, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the organization’s mission and its impact.
1. DDN: How did Humble Design come to be?
TS: In 2009, I was volunteering at Forgotten Harvest and had met somebody there who was moving from a shelter into a home. She had nothing — no beds, no pots and pans, no dressers. This struck me, so I asked around and managed to gather a houseful of furniture. My friend (and co-founder) Ana Smith and I spent about six weeks furnishing that family’s home, and when we were done, we went back to our lives, but the furniture kept coming. People were telling other people about what we were doing, so furniture would show up on my front lawn, in my garage, on my front porch. So we decided to call around to see who would deliver the furniture to families in need without having the families pay. We found that the model didn’t exist and decided to create our own charity.
2. DDN: How has the organization grown since then?
TS: We have a 12,000-square-foot warehouse in Pontiac and 13 employees. So far, we’ve helped 427 families. We do the entire house for them — everything from hanging artwork to placing large furniture to putting the clothes away. We provide school supplies and kitchen supplies. We like to say that, “Everything that goes in your home goes in our home.”
3. DDN: How important is the service you offer?
TS: We provide that steppingstone so a family has a place to gather for dinner at night and talk about their day or a place to do their homework or even a place to sit down and read a book. That restores their faith that next week will be better, and the week after that will be better, and they can start planning (their lives) out further than just hourly or daily. They can have hopes and dreams again. We’ve found that our families have a much higher rate of success than families that just leave the shelter without our help. The families we work with stay where they are. They stay in their schools and churches and in their community. They feel like they belong again to an area.
4. DDN: How do you find those in need?
TS: We partner with 14 different area shelters, and we ask that (area) social workers refer families to us. We really use them as a touchstone. They understand which families are in need and which families are going to do the best with what we can give them. So after the social workers refer a family, there’s really no red tape after that. We put them right on our list and they receive service from us. We help two families a week now, and we’d love to do more. We have the furniture; we just need the funding.
5. DDN: Where and how do you get funding?
TS: We have about seven fundraisers a year, but mostly we look toward the community to help us. Even smaller donations go a very long way. We’re also starting to sell some of the furniture that we can’t place, like (used) huge china cabinets or mismatched dishes. We’re going to be (hosting sales) one Friday a month, and the first sale is today.
For more information, visit humbledesign.org.